Heather Lester, personal trainer and life coach, inspired the Geneseo community after speaking about her personal journey—from beginning to exercise for the first time when she was 27 to completing an Ironman Triathlon.
Lester opened with her personal struggle with weight during her discussion on Wednesday Jan. 24 as part of the All-College speaker series, and how in 2008, she realized that she was depressed because of her weight. To combat this, she decided to train for a 5K.
One day, she saw an Ironman on television and decided that she wanted to participate in one of these races, no matter how much training it took.
“I ran that 5K, I watched that Cone of Championships and I decided I wanted to do that someday,” Lester said. “I would say, ‘one day, I want to do an Ironman,’ which is a ridiculous statement when you train for six months to run three miles, you don’t own a bike and you don’t know how to swim.”
Lester began to work as a personal trainer at a fitness camp and learned how to competitively swim and ride a bike. From there, she completed her first triathlon, and then in 2015, she finished a half Ironman.
“I came out of the water at that race and after that, all of those doubts were gone,” Lester said. “There was this moment during the bike and I could see nothing but athletes ahead of me and I had this great powerful moment of realizing that I was where I was meant to be.”
After two years of intense training, Lester completed her first Ironman, a huge accomplishment for anyone, let alone someone who only started exercising at age 27.
“Once I entered the oval, I screamed and just ran, high fiving everyone. Mike Reilly, the official Ironman announcer, said ‘Heather Lester, you are an Ironman.’ Two years and a lot of miles and training just to hear those words. It’s a moment I’ll never forget,” Lester said.
Lester’s speech had a motivational effect on attendees, stressing the importance of positivity and goal setting.
“I think the way she spoke about it made you think that no matter how big the goal, you’ll be able to achieve it. Listening to that story, it makes you think that even if it’s 10 years from now, you can achieve your goal,” pre-biology major freshman Miranda Blaauboer said.
Alyssa Stefanese, who works for the International Student and Scholar Services as a staff admissions intern, attended the lecture with her personal trainer Aprile Pfeffers.
“I thought it was really interesting hearing that her first goal was a 5K and then worked her way up to an Ironman, so I wanted to hear her thought process and how she made smart goals for herself to reach a bigger goal,” Stefanese said.
“It’s another avenue for motivation—hearing anything positive helps you set more goals for yourself and learn how to excel in what you are doing,” Pfeffers said.
Biophysics major freshman Jillian Todd believes that Lester’s message should be heard by every student.
“It sounded like something that would be good for students to hear,” Todd said. “I think it’s always good for students to hear a motivational story, because though we’re not struggling with something like finishing an Ironman, sometimes it can feel like that way with our workload.”
Communication and English double major freshman Sara Devoe echoed this sentiment.
“Listening to her talking about how beneficial it is to set goals, especially in college, made me realize how important it is to be goal oriented and not just do things to get through it,” Devoe said.
Lester’s story is an incredible one that provides a sense of hope and motivation at the beginning of the semester, inspiring attendees to change their own lives for the better.